DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the big topics this legislative session involves two bills that would legalize sports wagering. But as legislators decide if Iowans can start making bets with March Madness right around the corner, others are making sure the state is helping those with gambling addiction during Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March.
The [Iowa Department of Public Health’s] official position on this is that we are monitoring,” Eric Preuss, the Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention Program manager for IDPH said. “We want to make sure that we are giving good information to legislators to make the best informed decision to have the best legislation in place to protect Iowans.”
IDPH estimates only 14 percent of Iowans are at risk for gambling problems. But Eric Preuss says that problem grows exponentially for sports bettors because they usually are drawn into other gambling as well.
He says 16 percent of Iowa adults already gamble on sports, from office pools to fantasy sports and illegal bets.
“We would be kidding ourselves to say ‘well, there are no Iowans involved in the black market,’ well they are and we just want to be ready, as if this legislation passes, as they move into the regulated sports wagering, that they are aware that there are consumer protections,” Preuss said.
Already, Iowa is in the top 10 of funding gambling problem treatment and awareness services in the country. The state dedicates about $2.6 million a year to help responsible gambling.
They now have text, live chats, and calls available 24-7 at 1-800-bets-off for anyone struggling with gambling.